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How can I reduce the risk of suicide at home?

Maureen Q. Russell, MPH, RN
Geriatric Medicine

When it comes to reducing the risk of suicide at home - "Means Matter". The average household is full of potentially lethal objects and substances, and it is impossible to remove them all. But you can start here:

  • Firearms: the most common means of death by suicide. If at all possible, have them removed from the home. Otherwise, use gun locks and keep them under lock and key in a gun safe, and store the ammunition in a different part of the house - also under lock and key.
  • Drugs and medications: Store both prescription and over-the-counter meds in a lock box. As best you can, limit the number of pills available at any one time (a 3-month mail order supply is a LOT of pills!) Ban street drugs altogether.
  • Household products, cleansers & pesticides: Again, limit amounts on hand, and store in a secure site.

But our homes, simply in the normal course of living in one, will have other items, knives, rope, rafters, roofs & (high) windows. You (and every one of us) can do a lot, but only so much. Suicide risk can be reduced, but not eliminated. Making sure people at risk for suicide are receiving good - professional - help is something we can, and should, work on at home, too.

Harvard University has done tremendous work in means restriction. Check them out at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.